The family unanimously decided that you are in charge of the Thanksgiving meal this year. Can you pull it off? Yes, with a little bit of planning ahead of time you can throw a great family Thanksgiving get together without stressing or staying busy for weeks. The key is advanced planning.

[highlight background=”#fa8d2c” color=”#ffffff”]Step 1:[/highlight] Make A Guest List.

It’s next to impossible to determine how much food to buy and cook without knowing how many mouths you will be feeding. Contact friends and family early and request they RSVP by a certain date. Follow up with them in the weeks before Thanksgiving to make sure you know who is and isn’t coming. Plan for at least 2 extra guests – more if you are entertaining a larger crowd.

[highlight background=”#fa8d2c” color=”#ffffff”]Step 2:[/highlight] Plan the Meal

Once you know how many guests you’ll have, then the fun begins. You get to dream about food. Of course there are the old standbys like ham and turkey that you will probably be preparing, but there’s so much more to a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.

First, contact family members to find out what they can each bring. That will help you to adjust your menu plan accordingly. Take note of everyone willing to bring a dish – even if they aren’t sure yet what to bring. Make a list of Appetizers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Breads, Salads, Soups, and Desserts. What would be your favorite Thanksgiving meal of all time?

Do you have anyone with special dietary requirements? Perhaps your Uncle Stan is diabetic or Aunt Sally is allergic to peanuts. Be sure to keep their needs in mind while you’re planning. Try to offer some lighter, lower calorie alternatives to balance out some of the “heavier” traditional dishes.

[highlight background=”#fa8d2c” color=”#ffffff”]Step 3:[/highlight] The Master Plan

Once you determine what you’ll be serving, it’s time to break it down into manageable tasks.

Contact the people who didn’t know what they wanted to bring and assign them a dish. If you’re short on desserts, ask them to bring one. If you dread making mashed potatoes, see if they wouldn’t mind bringing them. Anything you can’t delegate will be up to you to make of course.

Now, you know what everyone else is bringing, you can make a grocery list and a timeline of the items you’ll be cooking.

Take a little time and sit down to make your grocery list. Keep recipes handy so you know exactly what you need. Don’t forget some of the spices you only use a few times a year (like sage). What tools (like a disposable roasting pan) are you going to need to prepare the meal? Don’t forget to stock up on extra napkins and paper towels. If you are planning on using disposable table clothes, plates etc. make a list of those items as well.

Get as much done as early as possible.

Did you know you could even freeze some mashed potato recipes weeks in advance? It’s true! Get started early on the shopping of non-perishable items for the party. Cross items of your master-shopping list as you get them.

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